Press Releases

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Chris Murphy (D-CT) and 13 of their Senate colleagues in requesting that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Department of the Treasury conduct an analysis of how the Affordable Care Act (ACA)’s repeal in California v. Texas would affect health care coverage in the United States, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Passed in 2010, the ACA drastically expanded the number of Americans with health insurance. Before the ACA, over 45 million Americans were uninsured and the 133 million Americans with pre-existing conditions could be denied coverage,” the Senators wrote. “After the ACA’s passage, over 20 million people gained health care coverage—including roughly 12 million people who were newly enrolled due to the ACA’s expansion of the Medicaid program. People with pre-existing conditions could no longer be denied coverage health insurers were required to expand coverage for mental health and substance use treatment; and young adults could stay on their parents’ health coverage until age 26—making it easier for millions of Americans to access care.”

“In the midst of a global pandemic that has killed roughly 220,000 people in the U.S. and infected over 8 million others, the President of the United States is actively asking the Supreme Court to eliminate the ACA’s critical health protections,” they continued. “Republicans in the U.S. Senate had the opportunity to pass legislation barring the President from advocating against the ACA in court, but they refused—choosing instead to ram through Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination and place the health care law at even greater risk.”

Despite the ACA’s success in expanding access to health care and reducing the number of uninsured Americans, Republican lawmakers have spent years working to overturn and undermine our nation’s health care law. These efforts have culminated in California v. Texas, a case led by 18 attorneys general and President Trump’s Department of Justice that calls for the courts to declare the entire ACA unconstitutional. The President is also currently working to fill the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Supreme Court seat with his nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, in time to hear arguments in the case on November 10, 2020. Barrett’s nomination is a key component of the President’s self-stated goal to “terminate health care under Obamacare [the ACA].” If the ACA is repealed, experts estimate that over 20 million Americans and 740,000 Virginians will lose health coverage – a number that is likely higher now as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In order to better understand how a Supreme Court decision to overturn ACA would affect health care coverage in the U.S. the Senators requested answers to the following questions:

  1. How many individuals would lose health coverage? Of those individuals:
    1. How many people would lose coverage that are currently enrolled in Medicaid in states that expanded Medicaid under the ACA?
    2. How many people would lose coverage that are currently enrolled in health insurance through the ACA marketplaces?
    3. How many adult children under the age of 26 who are currently covered through their parents’ plans would lose coverage?
    4. How many individuals would lose coverage that acquired coverage through the ACA during the COVID-19 pandemic?
    5. How many individuals would lose coverage that have pre-existing conditions?
    6. To the extent practicable, please provide the number of individuals, by state, that would lose health coverage disaggregated by race, ethnicity, gender, age, disability status, and income level.
    7. By how much would consumers’ health care costs, including out-of-pocket costs and premiums, increase? To the extent practicable, please provide this information disaggregated by race, ethnicity, gender, age, disability status, and income level.
    8. How many individuals currently covered through marketplace plans would lose ACA subsidies for their plans, and what would be the average amount lost per person in subsidies?
    9. How many individuals currently enrolled in Medicare Part D would likely hit the program’s prescription drug coverage gap, or the “doughnut hole,” in the first year following the ACA’s repeal? Assuming a complete reopening of the coverage gap (i.e.,100% beneficiary coinsurance, with 0% plan contribution and no manufacturer coverage gap discount program), what would be the average increase in out-of-pocket drug costs for enrollees who reach the coverage gap phase? What would be the estimated 10-yearsavings that would accumulate to drug manufacturers under a scenario where there is no coverage gap discount program?
    10. How many Medicare beneficiaries would be affected if preventive services were no longer exempt from cost-sharing requirements, what would be the effect on out-of-pocket spending if preventive services were not “free”, and how would the drop in preventive service use affect Medicare spending?
    11. What impact would the repeal have on the solvency of the hospital insurance trust fund?
    12. What is the average tax cut that households earning over $200,000 a year, over $1 million a year, and over $3 million a year, respectively, would receive?
    13. Please provide copies of any internal analyses conducted at HHS or Treasury that assess the impact of a California v. Texas decision that overturns the ACA on health care coverage. What analysis, if any, have your agencies conducted? What plans, if any, have your agencies developed to address the predicted loss of health care coverage that would accompany such a decision?

A copy of the letter is available here and below.

Dear Dr. Secretary Azar and Secretary Mnuchin: 

We write to request that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) provide Congress with its analysis of the impact a Supreme Court decision striking down the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in California v. Texas would have on health insurance coverage in the United States. We ask that particular attention be paid to the impact such coverage losses would have on Americans in the midst of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Passed in 2010, the ACA drastically expanded the number of Americans with health insurance. Before the ACA, over 45 million Americans were uninsured and the 133 million Americans with pre-existing conditions could be denied coverage. After the ACA’s passage, over 20 million people gained health care coverage—including roughly 12 million people who were newly enrolled due to the ACA’s expansion of the Medicaid program. People with pre-existing

conditions could no longer be denied coverage health insurers were required to expand coverage for mental health and substance use treatment; and young adults could stay on their  parents’ health coverage until age 26—making it easier for millions of Americans to access care.

Despite the ACA’s unequivocal success in reducing the number of uninsured Americans, Republican lawmakers have spent years working to overturn the law. These years of sabotage have culminated in California v. Texas, a case—led by 18 attorneys general and President Trump’s Department of Justice—that calls for the courts to declare the entire ACA unconstitutional. The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case on November 10, 2020. The President is currently working to fill the late Justice Ruth Bader’s Supreme Court seat with his nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, in time for the November 10th arguments. Barrett’s nomination is a key component of the President’s self-stated goal to “terminate health care under Obamacare [the ACA].”

Prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, analysts predicted that over 20 million Americans would lose health coverage if the ACA was overturned. That number is now likely far higher. In the first three months of the pandemic, unemployment rates rapidly outstripped those of the Great Recession, leaving roughly 30 million people unemployed by July. Today, around 28 million workers are receiving or seeking unemployment benefits, and estimates suggest that 5.4 million workers lost their health insurance as a result of the pandemic—swelling the ranks of Americans purchasing health insurance on the ACA marketplaces or getting coverage through Medicaid. Meanwhile, wealthy Americans would likely get a tax cut should the ACA be repealed: if the revenue measures included in the law, including taxes on the wealthiest households in the country, were to disappear, “the highest-income 0.1 percent…households would receive tax cuts averaging about $198,000 per year.”

In the midst of a global pandemic that has killed roughly 220,000 people in the U.S. and infected over 8 million others, the President of the United States is actively asking the Supreme Court to eliminate the ACA’s critical health protections. Republicans in the U.S. Senate had the opportunity to pass legislation barring the President from advocating against the ACA in court, but they refused—choosing instead to ram through Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination and place the health care law at even greater risk.

It is essential that policymakers understand the implications of a California v. Texas decision overturning the ACA. We therefore ask that HHS and Treasury provide us with information on how such a decision would impact health care coverage in the U.S. including any pre-existing internal analyses of such a decision. Specifically, should the Supreme Court overturn the ACA in its entirety:

1.      How many individuals would lose health coverage? Of those individuals:a.      How many people would lose coverage that are currently enrolled in Medicaid in states that expanded Medicaid under the ACA?
b.      How many people would lose coverage that are currently enrolled in health insurance through the ACA marketplaces?
c.       How many adult children under the age of 26 who are currently covered through their parents’ plans would lose coverage?
d.      How many individuals would lose coverage that acquired coverage through the ACA during the COVID-19 pandemic?
e.      How many individuals would lose coverage that have pre-existing conditions?
2.      To the extent practicable, please provide the number of individuals, by state, that would lose health coverage disaggregated by race, ethnicity, gender, age, disability status, and income level.
3.      By how much would consumers’ health care costs, including out-of-pocket costs and premiums, increase? To the extent practicable, please provide this information disaggregated by race, ethnicity, gender, age, disability status, and income level.
4.      How many individuals currently covered through marketplace plans would lose ACA subsidies for their plans, and what would be the average amount lost per person in subsidies?
5.      How many individuals currently enrolled in Medicare Part D would likely hit the program’s prescription drug coverage gap, or the “doughnut hole,” in the first year following the ACA’s repeal? Assuming a complete reopening of the coverage gap (i.e.,100% beneficiary coinsurance, with 0% plan contribution and no manufacturer coverage gap discount program), what would be the average increase in out-of-pocket drug costs for enrollees who reach the coverage gap phase? What would be the estimated 10-yearsavings that would accumulate to drug manufacturers under a scenario where there is no coverage gap discount program?
6.      How many Medicare beneficiaries would be affected if preventive services were no longer exempt from cost-sharing requirements, what would be the effect on out-of-pocket pending if preventive services were not “free”, and how would the drop in preventive service use affect Medicare spending?
7.      What impact would the repeal have on the solvency of the hospital insurance trust fund?
8.      What is the average tax cut that households earning over $200,000 a year, over $1 million a year, and over $3 million a year, respectively, would receive?
9.      Please provide copies of any internal analyses conducted at HHS or Treasury that assess the impact of a California v. Texas decision that overturns the ACA on health care coverage. What analysis, if any, have your agencies conducted? What plans, if any, have your agencies developed to address the predicted loss of health care coverage that would accompany such a decision?

Given the grave implications of this lawsuit and the pending nature of a Supreme Court decision, we ask for your attention to this urgent matter.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the following statement after Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Steve T. Descano brought forth two charges against the U.S. Park Police officers involved in the November 2017 shooting of Bijan Ghaisar: 

“As we near three years since two National Park Police officers tragically shot and killed Bijan, it is long past time for the Ghaisars to receive answers about what happened to their son and brother that night. 

In January of 2018, Sen. Warner, along with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), pushed the FBI for an update on the status of its investigation into the fatal 2017 shooting. In October of that year, Sen. Warner sent a letter to the head of the National Park Service (NPS) regarding the circumstances under which U.S. Park Police officers engaged with Mr. Ghaisar.

In June of 2019, Sen. Warner along with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) decried the opaque and drawn-out nature of the review in letters to both the FBI and NPS. Two months later, the FBI provided a brief response, leaving many questions unanswered. In October, NPS provided a partial response, which prompted a follow-up letter from the Senators seeking more information.

In November 2019, the Senators pledged to seek greater transparency and formally requested an FBI briefing on its investigation into the shooting – shortly after the FBI concluded its lengthy investigation without fully explain its findings, including why the two officers opened fire on Ghaisar. In February 2020, Sen. Warner voted against the nomination of Katharine MacGregor to be Deputy Secretary of the Interior, and in May, announced that he would place a hold on future Department of the Interior nominees until he receives adequate responses to his questions surrounding the Park Service’s handling of the shooting. In July, Sen. Warner pressed NPS for answers regarding its internal affairs investigation into the killing of Mr. Ghaisar, and the following month, he joined Sen. Grassley in a letter expressing concern over the department’s refusal to answer a number of questions in a briefing.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine released the following statement after President Trump announced he is calling off negotiations for COVID-19 relief until after the November general election and insisted the Senate focus its efforts on rushing through a Supreme Court nominee:

“The American public is telling us they need COVID relief now and we should wait until after the election to fill the Supreme Court vacancy. Instead, the President and Senate GOP are rushing their court nominee and ignoring Americans who are suffering in this health and economic crisis. We should be prioritizing COVID relief and we are discouraged that the President has decided to end the negotiations to do that.”

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the following statement after President Trump announced his intent to nominate Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court: 

“There is so much on the line with this Supreme Court vacancy. The next justice has the opportunity to decide the future of the Affordable Care Act, and whether Americans with preexisting conditions will continue to be protected, or if millions of Americans covered by the ACA will have their health care ripped away in the middle of a pandemic. Everything from health care to reproductive rights to voting rights hangs in the balance. Given the stakes, the American people have a right to have their voices heard before the confirmation of a new justice.

“This is not a question of judicial qualifications or temperament – this is about following the standard established by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2016, when he refused – over my own strong objections – to consider President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee 10 months prior to the election. That’s now the precedent. We can’t have one set of rules for Democratic presidents, and a different set of rules for Republican presidents. Our system of checks and balances, which has held strong and lasting for more than 200 years, was simply not meant to bear the brunt of such cynicism and hypocrisy. 

“Virginians are already casting their ballots. The Senate should not be considering a Supreme Court nomination before Inauguration Day.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine released the following statement today upon the Senate voting overwhelmingly to confirm Roderick C. Young as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia:

“Roderick Young will be a fair, even-minded judge who is already well-respected in the Commonwealth. We were proud to recommend his nomination to this court, and we’re pleased to see him confirmed today.”

In March, Warner and Kaine recommended the nomination of Young—who, until now, has been a U.S. magistrate judge—based on the assessments of an independent panel of attorneys from across the Commonwealth as well as feedback from numerous bar associations in Virginia.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA), along with Reps. A. Donald McEachin (D-VA) and Morgan Griffith (R-VA), demanded answers from the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) regarding reports of troubling conditions at Virginia facilities amid the COVID-19 crisis. Expressing frustration with Director Michael Carvajal’s failure to respond to a letter from earlier this year, the lawmakerspressed for answers concerning an ongoing lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and diminished quality of life for incarcerated individuals. 

“Nearly four months ago, we sent you a letter detailing the significant risks and challenges COVID-19 posed to the health and safety of staff, incarcerated individuals at FCC Petersburg and USP Lee, and the surrounding communities. We remain deeply concerned that the conditions within those facilities have failed to improve – and in many ways, appear to have deteriorated,” the lawmakers wrote. “One area of particular concern is the continued lack of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE). According to employees at FCC Petersburg, both staff and incarcerated individuals are forced to re-use supplies and masks, which presents serious health and safety risks. Given the close quarters and frequent person-to-person interaction, correctional staff and incarcerated individuals are especially vulnerable to contracting COVID-19. Lack of PPE also creates additional risk of community spread outside the facilities. Relatedly, we have learned from facility staff that showers are restricted for individuals incarcerated at FCC Petersburg, a policy which further exacerbates sanitation and hygiene issues during a global pandemic.”

“We have also received numerous reports related to other declining conditions at FCC Petersburg. It is our understanding that access to outdoor recreation, exercise facilities, and phones have been reduced due to the pandemic. We recognize the importance of limiting large group gatherings, and that coordinating these activities can present logistical, health, and safety challenges. However, it is imperative that correctional facilities find new ways to maintain and support a healthy quality of life for incarcerated individuals during this crisis,” they continued. “We have also heard disturbing reports that the food the incarcerated individuals are receiving has declined significantly in both quantity and quality, including being served spoiled food. Such conditions are unacceptable.” 

In Virginia, there are two federal correctional institutions in operation, including the U.S. Penitentiary in Lee County and the Petersburg Federal Correctional Complex. Correctional officers at Virginia’s facilities are responsible for approximately 4,144 incarcerated individuals. 

In their letter, the four members of Congress also raised concern with reports that correctional staff at FCI Petersburg continue to be denied a lunch break despite working shifts as long as sixteen hours – an issue originally raised in the lawmakers’ May 21st letter. Calling this “unacceptable and dangerous,” they encouraged Director Carvajal to institute a nation-wide break policy in order to address correctional staff’s basic needs.

Additionally, they expressed dismay regarding the transfer of incarcerated individuals between facilities, highlighting that at least one person with a positive case of COVID-19 was transferred to USP Lee. The lawmakers noted that this this lapse in judgment could result in an entirely preventable COVID-19 outbreak inside the prison, endangering staff, inmates and local communities. 

The members of Congress have advocated for vulnerable communities during the COVID-19 crisis. Earlier this year, they requested answers from Director Carvajal regarding issues at the Virginia facilities. Sen. Warner also joined his Senate colleagues in a letter to BOP and the three largest private prison operators inquiring about any policies and procedures in place to manage a potential spread of COVID-19.

Additionally, Sen. Warner and Kaine have urged the Trump Administration time and time and time again to cease the inter-state transfer of people held at immigration detention facilities during the public health crisis. 

Full text of today’s letter is available here or below.

 

Dear Director Carvajal:

We write to reiterate our serious concerns about the health and safety of staff and individuals incarcerated at Federal Correctional Complex (FCC) Petersburg and United States Penitentiary (USP) Lee, the two federal correctional facilities in Virginia, and to express our severe frustration at your failure to respond to our letter from May 21, 2020. After speaking with employees and the families of individuals incarcerated at both facilities, it is clear that the situation is worsening. According to figures shared with our offices, there are over 200 incarcerated individuals and at least 12 staff who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus at FCC Petersburg. 

Nearly four months ago, we sent you a letter detailing the significant risks and challenges COVID-19 posed to the health and safety of staff, incarcerated individuals at FCC Petersburg and USP Lee, and the surrounding communities. We remain deeply concerned that the conditions within those facilities have failed to improve – and in many ways, appear to have deteriorated.  

One area of particular concern is the continued lack of adequate personal protective equipment (PPE). According to employees at FCC Petersburg, both staff and incarcerated individuals are forced to re-use supplies and masks, which presents serious health and safety risks. Given the close quarters and frequent person-to-person interaction, correctional staff and incarcerated individuals are especially vulnerable to contracting COVID-19. Lack of PPE also creates additional risk of community spread outside the facilities. Relatedly, we have learned from facility staff that showers are restricted for individuals incarcerated at FCC Petersburg, a policy which further exacerbates sanitation and hygiene issues during a global pandemic. 

We have also received numerous reports related to other declining conditions at FCC Petersburg. It is our understanding that access to outdoor recreation, exercise facilities, and phones have been reduced due to the pandemic. We recognize the importance of limiting large group gatherings, and that coordinating these activities can present logistical, health, and safety challenges. However, it is imperative that correctional facilities find new ways to maintain and support a healthy quality of life for incarcerated individuals during this crisis. We have also heard disturbing reports that the food the incarcerated individuals are receiving has declined significantly in both quantity and quality, including being served spoiled food. Such conditions are unacceptable.   

Further, as we detailed in our letter nearly four months ago, correctional staff at FCC Petersburg continue to be denied a lunch break, despite reportedly working shifts as long as sixteen hours. This is unacceptable and dangerous. We once again encourage you to institute a break policy—not only at the Petersburg facility, but at the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) facilities across the nation—that more appropriately responds to correctional staff’s basic needs. 

Additionally, we are particularly dismayed to learn that, despite our concerns, BOP is transferring individuals to facilities without a record of COVID-19 cases. A group of individuals was recently transferred to USP Lee, which included at least one person with a positive case of COVID-19. Such transfers are a potentially deadly lapse in judgment. USP Lee is one of the largest employers in Lee County, Virginia, and not only could this transfer result in an entirely preventable outbreak inside the prison, it is also dangerous for the public health of local community members.   

Finally, your failure to respond to our serious concerns is further heightened by the recent announcement from the BOP that facilities will allow visitations to resume in early October. While we agree that resuming visitations is incredibly important for incarcerated individuals and their families, proper protocols must be in place and followed to ensure the health and safety of the incarcerated individuals, their families, and the surrounding communities. We urge you to take all available steps to ensure vitiations can resume as soon as possible while preserving the health and safety of visitors, staff, and incarcerated individuals.

Given the magnitude of the worsening conditions at USP Lee and FCC Petersburg, we demand an immediate response to how BOP is addressing our concerns by no later than October 5, 2020. As COVID-19 continues to present a significant health challenge at FCC Petersburg and USP Lee, and the surrounding communities, we are committed to working with you to address the needs of incarcerated individuals and correctional staff. 

We appreciate your attention to these important issues impacting our constituents and look forward to your prompt response. 

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine released the following statement today upon the Senate voting to confirm Thomas Cullen as a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia:

“We’re pleased to see the Senate confirm Thomas Cullen to this judgeship. We’re impressed with his record of prosecuting white supremacists in Charlottesville, and we believe he will serve the Western District well.”

Mr. Cullen has served as the United States Attorney for the Western District of Virginia since 2018.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine applauded $543,619 in federal funding through the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) to reduce domestic violence, dating violence, and sexual assault in Norfolk and Richmond. 

“Unfortunately, in today’s society, there’s so much more we must do to combat violence against women, especially on our college campuses,” said the Senators. “Boosting the capacity for higher education institutions to prevent violence and stalking on campus and increasing resources for support services is a start.”

The funding was awarded as follows:

  • $300,000 for Norfolk State University in Norfolk, Va. The funding was awarded through theGrants to Reduce Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, and Stalking on Campus Program (Campus Program). The Campus Program provides higher education institutions the opportunity to establish comprehensive approaches to better combat domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking on campuses. NSU works in partnership with the YWCA of South Hampton Roads, the City of Norfolk Police Department, and the Office of Norfolk’s Commonwealth Attorney to ensure the Campus Program is properly administered.

Sens. Warner and Kaine have worked to secure funding that better supports victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. In April, the senators penned a letter to Congressional leadership requesting that any future legislation to address the ongoing coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) provides funding to support victims and survivors, including programs authorized by the Violence Against Women Act.

Kaine is the sponsor of the Survivor Outreach and Support on Campus Act (S.O.S. Campus Act), which would require colleges and universities to have an independent advocate available to support survivors of sexual assault on every campus. In 2015, provisions of Kaine’s Teach Safe Relationships Act were signed into law to allow elementary and secondary schools to use federal education funding specifically for instruction and training on safe relationship behavior among students. The idea for the legislation came out of a December 2014 meeting Kaine had at the University of Virginia to listen to students’ recommendations for preventing campus sexual assault.Warner has previously introduced bipartisan legislation to combat sexual assault on college and university campuses. The Campus Accountability and Safety Act would reform the way institutions handle incidents of on-campus sexual assault and ensure that investigations and disciplinary proceedings are fair and consistent. It would also create new resources and support services for survivors, and set new notification requirements for both survivors and accused students involved in the campus disciplinary process.

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) continued to seek answers from the National Park Service (NPS) regarding the killing of Fairfax County resident Bijan Ghaisar by U.S. Park Police (USPP) officers in 2017. For over two years, Sen. Warner has sought transparency into the circumstances surrounding the use of deadly force, the FBI’s review of the case, and the handling of the incident by the Department of the Interior.

“I am deeply disappointed in the lack of actual information provided in your letter, especially considering it took over seven months to receive a response to my original correspondence. The response and recent public comments made by the Department of the Interior raise some additional questions that require further clarification,” wrote Sen. Warner. “One specific aspect of NPS and USPP’s handling of the Bijan Ghaisar case that has not been adequately explained is the status of an internal affairs investigation related to the Park Police officers involved in the incident.”

In his letter, Sen. Warner pointed to contradictory comments from USPP regarding the status of an internal affairs investigation into the officers that were involved in the incident. In response, Sen. Warner requested answers to a number of questions regarding the Department of the Interior’s position on such an investigation: 

  1. Is the Park Service and the Park Police relying on written guidance within the USPP Internal Affairs Unit or elsewhere within NPS when claiming it is the position of the agency that it does not pursue internal affairs investigations while criminal investigations are ongoing or could potentially be forthcoming? If such written guidance exists, I request that you provide my office with a copy of this policy. If no such written policy exists, I ask that you provide a fulsome explanation as to how this became the current position of USPP and NPS, including the legal justification for the agency’s position on this matter. 
  1. Are there previous examples where the USPP Internal Affairs Unit has conducted an internal affairs investigation regarding the use of force by Park Police officers while outside civil or criminal investigations were ongoing or potentially forthcoming? If there are such instances, I request that you provide my office with documentation regarding these investigations and an explanation of how they differ from the situation regarding Mr. Ghaisar.
  1. In the updated USPP General Order on Use of Force policy (#3615), a section is included regarding the reporting of use of force incidents. In this section, it states that an officer “shall immediately report all uses of force beyond Cooperative or Contact controls to an immediate supervisor,” and that “[t]he supervisor shall submit a copy of all reports within 24 hours to the Commander, Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), and the appropriate Division Commander through the appropriate chain of command.” It continues, “[t]he Commander, OPR, shall ensure all use of force incidents are properly investigated,” and provides the OPR Commander authority to assign the Internal Affairs Unit to conduct a thorough investigation of an incident if deemed necessary.[1]

    How do these new reporting requirements compare to the guidelines in place at the time of the Bijan Ghaisar incident? The updated guidelines appear to have no qualifications that would prevent the Internal Affairs Unit from conducting an investigation concurrently with any potential civil or criminal investigation associated with an incident pertaining to the use of force by a Park Police officer. Would these reporting requirements spelled out in the updated General Orders on Use of Force be subjected to USPP’s current stated policy that it does not initiate internal affairs investigations if a criminal investigation is possible, even if the OPR Commander determines an incident is worthy of an internal affairs investigation? 
  1. When the Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney makes a formal decision of whether or not to bring criminal charges against the two Park Police officers involved in the shooting of Bijan Ghaisar, what is the anticipated timeline for the USPP Internal Affairs Unit to determine if any violations of USPP policy occurred?

In January of 2018, Warner, along with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), pushed the FBI for an update on the status of its investigation into the fatal 2017 shooting. In October of that year, Warner sent a letterto the head of the National Park Service (NPS) regarding the circumstances under which U.S. Park Police officers engaged with Mr. Ghaisar.

In June of 2019, Sen. Warner along with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) decried the opaque and drawn-out nature of the review in letters to both the FBI and NPS. Two months later, the FBI provided a brief response, leaving many questions unanswered. In October, NPS provided a partial response, which prompted a follow-up letter from the Senators seeking more information.

In November 2019, the Senators pledged to seek greater transparency and formally requested an FBI briefing on its investigation into the shooting – shortly after the FBI concluded its lengthy investigation without fully explain its findings, including why the two officers opened fire on Ghaisar. Earlier this year, Sen. Warner voted against the nomination of Katharine MacGregor to be Deputy Secretary of the Interior, and in May, announced that he would place a hold on future Department of the Interior nominees until he receives adequate responses to his questions surrounding the Park Service’s handling of the shooting.

A copy of today’s letter is available here and below.

 

July 24, 2020

The Honorable David Vela

Acting Director

National Park Service

1849 C Street NW

Washington, D.C. 20240 

Dear Acting Director Vela: 

Thank you for the letter, sent June 3, 2020, which aimed to respond to a letter Senator Grassley and I sent to you on November 1, 2019, that raised serious questions regarding the National Park Service’s (NPS) and United States Park Police’s (USPP) handling of the Bijan Ghaisar case. While I appreciate that you responded, I am deeply disappointed in the lack of actual information provided in your letter, especially considering it took over seven months to receive a response to my original correspondence. The response and recent public comments made by the Department of the Interior raise some additional questions that require further clarification.

One specific aspect of NPS and USPP’s handling of the Bijan Ghaisar case that has not been adequately explained is the status of an internal affairs investigation related to the Park Police officers involved in the incident. In response to my question regarding the status of a potential internal affairs investigation, you replied that “the National Park Service (NPS) does not typically comment on the substance or specific aspect of such reviews before they are complete,” and “[w]e can confirm that the Department has begun evaluating next steps in the context of pending cases and possible criminal action by the Fairfax County Prosecutor’s Office.” However, on May 20, 2020, a representative for USPP commented, “no internal affairs investigation of this case will begin until after a decision is made by Fairfax on filing criminal charges.”  While other questions remain surrounding the Department’s handling of Bijan’s shooting, I have a number of specific questions regarding the Department’s position on a potential internal affairs investigation.

1.           Is the Park Service and the Park Police relying on written guidance within the USPP Internal Affairs Unit or elsewhere within NPS when claiming it is the position of the agency that it does not pursue internal affairs investigations while criminal investigations are ongoing or could potentially be forthcoming? If such written guidance exists, I request that you provide my office with a copy of this policy. If no such written policy exists, I ask that you provide a fulsome explanation as to how this became the current position of USPP and NPS, including the legal justification for the agency’s position on this matter.

2.           Are there previous examples where the USPP Internal Affairs Unit has conducted an internal affairs investigation regarding the use of force by Park Police officers while outside civil or criminal investigations were ongoing or potentially forthcoming? If there are such instances, I request that you provide my office with documentation regarding these investigations and an explanation of how they differ from the situation regarding Mr. Ghaisar.

3.           In the updated USPP General Order on Use of Force policy (#3615), a section is included regarding the reporting of use of force incidents. In this section, it states that an officer “shall immediately report all uses of force beyond Cooperative or Contact controls to an immediate supervisor,” and that “[t]he supervisor shall submit a copy of all reports within 24 hours to the Commander, Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), and the appropriate Division Commander through the appropriate chain of command.” It continues, “[t]he Commander, OPR, shall ensure all use of force incidents are properly investigated,” and provides the OPR Commander authority to assign the Internal Affairs Unit to conduct a thorough investigation of an incident if deemed necessary.  

How do these new reporting requirements compare to the guidelines in place at the time of the Bijan Ghaisar incident? The updated guidelines appear to have no qualifications that would prevent the Internal Affairs Unit from conducting an investigation concurrently with any potential civil or criminal investigation associated with an incident pertaining to the use of force by a Park Police officer. Would these reporting requirements spelled out in the updated General Orders on Use of Force be subjected to USPP’s current stated policy that it does not initiate internal affairs investigations if a criminal investigation is possible, even if the OPR Commander determines an incident is worthy of an internal affairs investigation? 

4.           When the Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney makes a formal decision of whether or not to bring criminal charges against the two Park Police officers involved in the shooting of Bijan Ghaisar, what is the anticipated timeline for the USPP Internal Affairs Unit to determine if any violations of USPP policy occurred?

Thank you for your attention to the questions outlined above. Should you or your staff have any questions regarding this request, please contact my staff.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. I look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

 

###

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (D-VA) joined Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden to introduce the Preventing Authoritarian Policing Tactics on America’s Streets Act, which would block the Trump Administration from deploying federal agents as paramilitary forces against Americans. The action comes after a week in which heavily armed federal forces without uniform identification in unmarked vehicles have been grabbing protesters off the street in Portland, Oregon. Those forces have deployed munitions and tear gas against protesters. 

“What we’ve seen in Portland these last two weeks is an outrage and should never be accepted in the U.S.,” the Senators said. “President Trump is using completely unjustified and unconstitutional intimidation tactics against American citizens over the objections of state and local officials. This bill makes it clear that unidentified officers cannot trample on the constitutional rights of peaceful protesters.”

Specifically, the legislation would:

  1. Require individual and agency identification on uniforms of officers and prevent unmarked vehicles from being used in arrests.
  2. Limit federal agents’ crowd control activities to federal property and its immediate vicinity, unless their presence is specifically requested by both the mayor and governor.
  3. Require disclosure on an agency website within 24 hours of deployments specifying the number of personnel and purposes of deployment.
  4. Make arrests in violation of these rules unlawful.

The bill was also introduced as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. Senator Kaine previously introduced a successful NDAA amendment to prevent the use of military funds or personnel against American citizens exercising their First Amendment rights.

The full text of the Senate NDAA amendment can be found here.

###

WASHINGTON – Following a continuous push from U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) to get the life-saving Ashanti Alert system implemented across the country, the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), a component within the Department of Justice (DOJ), held a national webinar today to encourage states to integrate the Ashanti Alert within their existing statewide alert systems. Sen. Warner sent a letter to Governors across the country inviting their law enforcement officials to participate in the webinar and learn how they can begin to implement this critical program. During the webinar, the BJA announced they will make $1 million in technical assistance available to facilitate and expedite the development of statewide Ashanti Alert programs. The application process for the federal funding will be available beginning tomorrow, Friday, July 24. 

“Today’s national webinar on the Ashanti Alert system took an important step forward in getting states more information on this life-saving tool,” said Sen. Warner. “The input by Virginia state officials during today’s discussion underscores how this alert system can effectively assist in the search of a missing individual. It’s my hope that states across the country will apply to the pilot program and implement this tool into their existing networks in an effort to save lives and pay tribute to Ashanti, a young Virginian who was taken from her family too soon.”

“On behalf of Ashanti Markaila Billie, ourselves the parents and the entire Billie family, we extend our thanks to Senator Warner and the Department of Justice. Through their diligence and dedication to the Ashanti Alert, we are now seeing the first fruits of our labor in implementation,” said Meltony and Brandy Billie, parents of Ashanti Billie. “Today’s training webinar marks a milestone towards final implementation. We look forward to the continued progress of the Ashanti Alert and its potential to save American lives.”

The Ashanti Alert Law is named after Ashanti Billie – a 19-year-old whose body was discovered in North Carolina, 11 days after she was first reported missing in Norfolk, Va. At the time of Ashanti’s abduction, she was too old for an AMBER Alert and too young for a Silver Alert. Once implemented, the Ashanti Alert would notify the public about missing or endangered adults, ages 18-64, and assist law enforcement in the search by way of a national communications network.

At Sen. Warner’s urging, DOJ has been working with Virginia state officials on the Ashanti Alert implementation, which today gave way to a presentation by Virginia state officials on how the Ashanti Alert system has successfully worked in the Commonwealth. In April 2018, Virginia passed its own legislation to create an Ashanti Alert network and the first alert was issued in July 2018 – three months after it was signed into law by Governor Northam. Since its implementation, Virginia has successfully issued ten Ashanti Alerts in the Commonwealth. 

“Today’s webinar culminates several years of intense labor dedicated to raising the awareness of missing adults between age of 18 and 64 years old in the US and Indigenous territory’s. We are most thankful that the precious life of Ashanti will serve to save many for many years to come,” said Michael J. Muhammad, a representative for the Billie family, who provided background during the webinar on the need to close the gap in the existing missing persons system.  

Sen. Warner, who secured unanimous passage of this national alert system through the Senate on December 6, 2018, has been a leader in the fight to implement the Ashanti Alert nationwide. In August, he reiterated the need for the alert’s swift implementation, following a meeting with Ashanti Alert Coordinator, DOJ Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Katherine Sullivan.

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) and 44 Senate colleagues in introducing a resolution officially condemning the Trump Administration’s “reckless” effort to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which provides coverage for millions of Americans. The Senate resolution also demands that the Department of Justice (DOJ) defend existing law in court and halt its efforts to repeal the health care protections for millions – including 133 million Americans with pre-existing conditions— in the middle of a public health emergency.

“The Trump Administration has made it clear that it will not stop its assault on our nation’s health care law until millions of Americans have lost the protections and coverage they desperately need,” said Sen. Warner. “This resolution affirms what we have said for years – that this Administration’s efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act are despicable and put too many vulnerable Virginians at risk. The Department of Justice must immediately put a stop to these efforts and fight to increase access to health care during the largest public health crisis in a generation.” 

“To rip health care away from millions of people during a pandemic would be like dousing a fire with gasoline,” said Kaine. “For the sake of the more than 431,000 Virginians benefiting from Medicaid expansion, more than 3 million Virginians with pre-existing conditions, and all else who rely on the ACA for affordable coverage and consumer protections, I oppose this administration’s latest display of inept cruelty.” 

Last week, the DOJ and a group of Republican Attorneys General submitted a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court urging it to invalidate the ACA and pull the rug out from underneath the millions of Americans with preexisting conditions who depend on the law for health care coverage. This move would take away health care coverage for more than 23 million Americans who receive health care coverage through the ACA marketplaces.

Additionally, if the Supreme Court agrees to overturn the ACA, it could sabotage protections for more than 3 million Virginians living with a preexisting condition such as COVID-19, diabetes, asthma, or cancer, potentially exposing them to annual or lifetime caps, medical underwriting for their insurance coverage, or denials for the care they need. Across the board, the Commonwealth could lose needed federal funds, causing significant job losses and jeopardizing the viability of Virginia’s rural hospitals in the midst of a global health crisis.

The resolution urges DOJ to reverse its position and instead protect the millions of people who rely on the ACA for health care coverage amid the COVID-19 pandemic that has infected more than 2.4 million Americans.

In addition to Sens. Warner, Kaine and Tester, the resolution is also backed by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Doug Jones (D-AL), Tina Smith (D-MN), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Tom Carper (D-DE), Dick Blumenthal (D-CT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Gary Peters (D-MI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Angus King (I-ME), Tom Udall (D-NM), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Chris Coons (D-DE), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

In the Senate, Sens. Warner and Kaine have fought for expanded access to health care and have spoken out against the Trump Administration’s attempts to overturn the ACA. Last year, Sen. Warner led and Sen. Kaine joined a legislative maneuver to protect health coverage for Americans with preexisting conditions. The Senators have also demanded that the Trump Administration stop the health care sabotage that has undermined our preparedness and ability to respond to COVID-19. Recently, Sen. Warner penned an op-ed sounding the alarm of the devastating effects the health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19 has had on record high uninsured rates across the country.  

The full text of the resolution is available here.

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) led all Democrats on the Senate Rules Committee in calling for the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the National Association of State Election Directors, and the National Association of Secretaries of State to work proactively to counter any attempts to suppress vulnerable and historically-disenfranchised voters during the COVID-19 crisis.

In letters to Assistant Attorney General Eric S. Dreiband, head of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, and to the presidents of the National Association of State Election Directors and the National Association of Secretaries of State, the Senators affirmed that no American should have to choose between their franchise and their health, and stressed the importance of ensuring that any public health measures do not discourage voter participation or limit access to the polls for vulnerable groups, including communities of color and people with disabilities. To best ensure the safety of voters, the Senators encouraged the adoption of convenience voting measures such as vote-by-mail and curbside voting.

“While precincts nationwide can and should actively encourage measures like the use of PPE, substantial sanitation and social distancing in-line with recommendations from the CDC, reasonable modifications must be made to ensure equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities,” wrote the Senators. “For example, persons with autism are often unable to wear a mask for any extended period. In cases like this, it is critical that guidance interpreting the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act be issued to clarify that reasonable modifications must be made to ensure that social distancing measures do not serve as a barrier to the polls for individuals with disabilities.”

“The risk that novel procedures may deter voters is further complicated by the disturbing racial disparities in Coronavirus cases. In almost every state, evidence suggests that African Americans have been disproportionately affected by the virus,” they continued. “Communities of color have frequently faced active efforts to inhibit their franchise – unfortunately, it is likely that there are those who will attempt to use COVID-19 safety procedures as a pretext to suppress voters and undermine the political voice of these communities. We must proactively take steps to safeguard these communities and other vulnerable groups from voter suppression and intimidation.”

In their letters, the Senators noted the increased vulnerabilities facing the 2020 general election in light of the COVID-19 crisis. They highlighted delays and dangerous voting conditions reported in places like Wisconsin, where an in-person election with inadequate procedures resulted in at least 50 cases of COVID-19 during the spring primary season.

The Senators also issued a series of recommendations to prevent voter suppression. These include announcing any safety procedures months ahead of the November election, communicating voting and safety procedures in a variety of languages and formats, issuing strong privacy and security testing months ahead of the deployment of any screening tools, evaluating policies for compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, ensuring that any polling places with accessibility problems are made accessible and that reasonable modifications are made to meet the needs of voters with disabilities, training poll workers on how to operate accessible voting machines and on how to interact with voters with disabilities, providing the opportunity for voters with a suspected illness to cast their ballots swiftly and securely, and conducting meaningful engagement with community leaders when determining the impact of any measures on historically disenfranchised communities.

In addition to Sen. Warner, the letters were signed by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Angus King (I-ME), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tom Udall (D-NM), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). 

A copy of the letter to the National Association of State Election Directors and the National Association of Secretaries of State is available here.

A copy of the letter to the DOJ Assistant Attorney General is available here

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) joined Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) and 19 Senate Democrats in requesting that Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz open an investigation into the conduct of Attorney General William Barr and the Department of Justice in directing the use of force against peaceful protestors around Lafayette Square on June 1, 2020. 

The Senators also called on the Inspector General to probe the deployment of federal law enforcement to suppress protests and intimidate protestors across the country and the temporary expansion of the Drug Enforcement Agency’s authority to “conduct covert surveillance” on Americans participating in protests.

“We write to request an immediate investigation into Attorney General William Barr’s and the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) roles in directing the use of force – including the use of tear gas or a similar gas, rubber bullets, pepper balls, and batons – to suppress peaceful protesters around Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., on June 1, 2020,” the Senators wrote. “This misuse of force is all the more alarming given that the Attorney General appears to have issued this order to allow President Trump to walk across the street from the White House for a political photo-op in front of St. John’s Church. Notably, Attorney General Barr was not only on the scene less than an hour before the use of force to clear peaceful protesters, but he also participated in President Trump’s photo op, posing for pictures in front of the church.” 

The Senators continued: “We believe that the concerning actions we have identified warrant immediate investigation by your office, as they raise serious questions about misconduct, abuse of power, and waste by the Justice Department. Moreover, there appears to be no question about your office’s jurisdiction in this matter.

“Therefore, as detailed above, we urge your office to investigate the roles of Attorney General Barr and the Department of Justice in directing the use of force, including tear gas and rubber bullets, against peaceful protesters near Lafayette Square on June 1, 2020; deploying federal agents to suppress protests and intimidate peaceful protesters; and expanding the authority of DEA to conduct covert surveillance of protesters.”

Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), also signed the letter. 

The full letter can be downloaded here or viewed below:

 

Dear Inspector General Horowitz, 

We write to request an immediate investigation into Attorney General William Barr’s and the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) roles in directing the use of force – including the use of tear gas or a similar gas, rubber bullets, pepper balls, and batons – to suppress peaceful protesters around Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., on June 1, 2020. This misuse of force is all the more alarming given that the Attorney General appears to have issued this order to allow President Trump to walk across the street from the White House for a political photo-op in front of St. John’s Church. Notably, Attorney General Barr was not only on the scene less than an hour before the use of force to clear peaceful protesters, but he also participated in President Trump’s photo op, posing for pictures in front of the church.

We further ask that you investigate Attorney General Barr’s and DOJ’s role in deploying federal law enforcement and security agencies to seemingly suppress protests and intimidate protesters throughout the country who are peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights. In the wake of the brutal murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, Americans all across our country are calling for an end to police brutality and a transformation of systems that perpetuate injustice and inequality. In response, President Trump has vowed to “dominate” the protesters.

The Attorney General and his Justice Department appear to be following through on the President’s vow by mobilizing agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP); the U.S. Marshals; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosive; Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA); and possibly other agencies, against peaceful protests. Some of these federal agents appear to have participated in using force to remove protesters from the area around Lafayette Square on June 1, 2020. According to eyewitness accounts and video footage, federal agents from these agencies, and other agencies, advanced on peaceful protesters with smoke canisters, pepper balls, riot shields, batons, and officers on horseback, with little warning before the 7 p.m. curfew. They fired rubber bullets at protesters, even as the protesters were retreating. They dropped canisters of gas to explode within several feet of a hundred people or more. They pushed protestors over and even struck a news camera crew with batons. These actions warrant an immediate investigation. 

Moreover, we are concerned by the deployment of federal agents who are trained to deal with prison riots, hostage situations, or other similar circumstances, but not adequately trained in protecting the constitutional rights of Americans engaged in peaceful protests. These concerns are amplified by the fact that some of federal officers were deployed in generic riot gear without displaying any identifying insignia and refused to identify themselves when asked. The lack of identifying information undermines accountability and furthers the distrust of law enforcement.

We are also deeply troubled by reports that the Justice Department has temporarily expanded the authority of DEA to “conduct covert surveillance” and collect intelligence on Americans exercising their constitutional rights to protest the murder of George Floyd. According to Buzzfeed News, the Justice Department also authorized DEA to share intelligence with local and state law enforcement authorities and intervene in a law enforcement role at protests. This expansion of DEA authority appears to be a misuse of DOJ’s powers that warrants further investigation.

We believe that the concerning actions we have identified warrant immediate investigation by your office, as they raise serious questions about misconduct, abuse of power, and waste by the Justice Department. Moreover, there appears to be no question about your office’s jurisdiction in this matter.

Therefore, as detailed above, we urge your office to investigate the roles of Attorney General Barr and the Department of Justice in directing the use of force, including tear gas and rubber bullets, against peaceful protesters near Lafayette Square on June 1, 2020; deploying federal agents to suppress protests and intimidate peaceful protesters; and expanding the authority of DEA to conduct covert surveillance of protesters. 

Sincerely,

 

###

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Kamala Harris (D-CA) and 31 of their Senate colleagues in introducing sweeping police reform legislation. The Justice in Policing Act of 2020 is the first comprehensive legislative approach to ending police brutality and changing the culture of law enforcement departments by holding police accountable in court for misconduct, increasing transparency through better data collection, and improving police practices and training. The bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressional Black Caucus Chair Karen Bass (D-CA), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and 165 cosponsors.

“Our national conversation about systemic racism is long overdue. Over and over, in communities across the country, we see Black men, women, and even children treated with violence and suspicion that white Americans never experience. There is not one single policy to address this crisis. It will take sustained effort at every level of government and society. However, the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 can begin to create the kind of systematic change we need,” said Sen. Warner. “Policing is a local issue, and much of the change we need to see will come at the state and local level. But there are areas where we can take action at the federal level. This bill may not be perfect, and as the legislative process proceeds we should be open to further improvements. We should also continue to engage the many members of law enforcement who are working tirelessly to bring change to their own neighborhoods and communities. But today’s introduction is a vital first step to ensuring that the principle of equal justice under the law is realized for all Americans, and I am proud to stand with Senators Booker and Harris to support this effort.”

“Far too many Americans, particularly Black Americans, have been victims of police brutality, and Congress can no longer be bystanders,” Sen. Kaine said. “This legislation will improve police training, transparency, and practices to help address systemic racism. We must enact meaningful change to make clear that police misconduct has no place in America.”

“America has a serious and deadly problem when it comes to the discriminatory and excessive policing of communities of color - and that policing exists within a system that time and again refuses to hold police accountable for their brutality,” Sen. Booker said. “For too long, this has been accepted as a cruel reality of being black in this country. We are forced to figure out how to keep ourselves safe from law enforcement and we are viewed as a threat to be protected against instead of people worth protecting.”

“And for too long, Congress has failed to act. That ends today with the landmark Justice in Policing Act which, for the first time in history, will take a comprehensive approach to ending police brutality. On the back-end, the bill fixes our federal laws so law enforcement officers are held accountable for egregious misconduct and police abuses are better tracked and reported. And on the front-end, the bill improves police practices and training to prevent these injustices from happening in the first place.”

“America’s sidewalks are stained with Black blood,” Sen. Harris said. “In the wake of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor’s murders, we must ask ourselves: how many more times must our families and our communities be put through the trauma of an unarmed Black man or woman’s killing at the hands of the very police who are sworn to protect and serve them? As a career prosecutor and former Attorney General of California, I know that real public safety requires community trust and police accountability. I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this historic legislation that will get our country on a path forward.”

Specifically, the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 would:

 

  • Hold police accountable in our courts by: 
    • Amending the mens rea requirement in 18 U.S.C. Section 242, the federal criminal statute to prosecute police misconduct, from “willfulness” to a “recklessness” standard;
    • Reforming qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that as currently interpreted shields law enforcement officers from being held legally liable for violating an individual’s constitutional rights. 
    • Improving the use of pattern and practice investigations at the federal level by granting the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division subpoena power and incentivizing state attorneys general to conduct pattern and practice investigations; 
    • Incentivizing states to create independent investigative structures for police involved deaths through grants; and
    • Creating best practices recommendations based on President Obama’s 21st Century Policing Task Force 
  • Improve transparency into policing by collecting better and more accurate data of police misconduct and use-of-force by:
    • Creating a National Police Misconduct Registry to prevent problem-officers from changing jurisdictions to avoid accountability; and
    • Mandating state and local law enforcement agencies report use of force data, disaggregated by race, sex, disability, religion, and age
  • Improve police training and practices by:
    • Ending racial and religious profiling;
    • Mandating training on racial bias and the duty to intervene; 
    • Banning no-knock warrants in drug cases;
    • Banning chokeholds and carotid holds;
    • Changing the use of force standard for federal officers from reasonableness to only when necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury;
    • Limiting the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local law enforcement;
    • Requiring federal uniformed police officers to wear body cameras; and
    • Requiring state and local law enforcement to use existing federal funds to ensure the use of police body camera          
  • Make lynching a federal crime by:
    • Making it a federal crime to conspire to violate existing federal hate crimes laws

The Justice in Policing Act of 2020 has the support of a broad coalition of civil rights organizations including: Demand Progress, Lawyers' Committee For Civil Rights Under Law, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, National Action Network, National African American Clergy Network, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (NCBCP), Black Millennial Convention, and the National Urban League.

"The National African American Clergy Network supports the Justice in Policing Bill.  It affirms sacred scripture that everyone is created in the image of God and deserves to be protected by police sworn to value and safeguard all lives. Failure by police to uphold this sacred trust with Black Americans lives, requires systemic changes in policing nationwide," said Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, Dr. Otis Moss, Jr., Dr. T. DeWitt Smith, Jr., Co-Conveners, The National African American Clergy Network (NAACN). 

"It's time to close the chapter on a dark era of unchecked police violence in our country that has wreaked havoc on African American families across the country. The Justice in Policing Act is historic and long overdue legislation that will put our country on a path to reform.  This Act is responsive to many of the urgent demands being pressed for by our communities and by the people protesting for racial justice and equity across our nation. The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law commends the Congressional Black Caucus for their leadership on policing reform and this critical legislation, including Chair Karen Bass, Senator Cory Booker and Senator Kamala Harris," said Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director, the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

"Sometimes difficult circumstances present a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring about historic change," said Marc H. Morial, President and CEO, the National Urban League. "The brutal actions of police in George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, along with botched execution of a no-knock warrant that killed Breonna Taylor in Louisville, and the brazen vigilante execution of Ahmaud Arbery in Glynn County, Georgia, have pushed the nation to the tipping point."

"For the past four-plus centuries, Black people have continuously been made to endure unfair, unjust, and inhumane treatment in this country. We have been made to believe in that if we worked hard, never complained, and accepted what the world offered that would be enough. What the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others have taught us is that obedience will never be enough; liberty and justice for all applies to everyone but us; and by us, we mean Black Americans, African Americans, Afro-Americans, or plainly put, Black people," said Waikinya J.S.Clanton, MBA Black Millennial Convention. 

In addition to Sens. Warner, Kaine, Booker and Harris, the bill was cosponsored by Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tom Udall (D-NM), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR). 

In addition to Reps. Bass and Nadler, the bill was cosponored in the House by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), John Lewis (D-GA), Alma Adams (D-NC), Pete Aguilar (D-CA), Collin Allred (D-TX), Nanette Barragán (D-CA), Joyce Beatty (D-OH), Ami Bera (D-CA), Don Beyer (D-VA), Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (D-GA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Brendan Boyle (D-PA), Anthony G. Brown (D-MD), Julia Brownley (D-CA), G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Cheri Bustos (D-IL), Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Andre Carson (D-IN), Matt Cartwright (D-PA), Kathy Castor (D-FL), Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Judy Chu (D-CA), David N. Cicilline (D-RI), Yvette D. Clarke (D-NY), Wm. Lacy Clay (D-MO), Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Joe Courtney (D-CT), J. Luis Correa (D-CA), Jason Crow (D-CO), Danny K. Davis (D-IL), Susan Davis (D-CA), Madeleine Dean (D-PA), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Suzan DelBene (D-WA), Antonio Delgado (D-NY), Val B. Demings (D-FL), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Mike Doyle (D-PA), Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Dwight Evans (D-PA), Lois Frankel (D-FL), Marcia L. Fudge (D-OH), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Jesús “Chuy” García (D-IL), Sylvia R. García, (D-TX), Al Green (D-TX), Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX), Deb Haaland (D-NM), Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Jahana Hayes (D-CT), Denny Heck (D-WA), Brian Higgins (D-NY), Steven Horsford (D-NV), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Henry C. "Hank" Johnson, Jr. (D-GA), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Bill Keating (D-MA) Robin Kelly (D-IL), Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-MA), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Dan Kildee (D-MI), Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Annie Kuster (D-NH), Jim Langevin (D-RI), Brenda L. Lawrence (D-MI), Al Lawson (D-FL), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA), Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), Lucy McBath (D-GA), Betty McCollum (D-MN), A. Donald McEachin (D-VA), James P. McGovern (D-MA), Jerry McNerney (D-CA), Gregory W. Meeks (D-NY), Grace Meng (D-NY), Kweisi Mfume (D-MD), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL), Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA), Richard E. Neal (D-MA), Joe Neguse (D-CO), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Donald M. Payne, Jr. (D-NJ),  Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), Scott Peters (D-CA), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Stacey E. Plaskett (D-V.I.), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), David E. Price (D-NC), Jamie Raskin, (D-MD), Cedric L. Richmond (D-LA), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Bobby L. Rush (D-IL), Tim Ryan (D-OH), Linda Sánchez (D-CA), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Bradley Scott Schneider (D-IL), Bobby Scott (D-VA), David Scott (D-GA), Jose Serrano (D-NY), Terri Sewell (D-AL), Donna Shalala (D-FL), Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Adam Smith (D-WA), Greg Stanton (D-AZ), Tom Suozzi (D-NY), Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Mark Takano (D-CA), Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Mike Thompson (D-CA), Dina Titus (D-NV), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Paul Tonko (D-NY), Norma Torres (D-CA), Lori Trahan (D-MA), David Trone (D-MD), Lauren Underwood (D-IL), Marc Veasey (D-TX), Filemon Vela (D-TX), Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Maxine Waters (D-CA), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Peter Welch (D-VT), Frederica Wilson (D-FL) and John Yarmuth (D-KY).

Full text of the bill is available here

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) issued the following statement on reports that the FBI’s top lawyer Dana Boente was asked to resign Friday:

“Dana Boente served ably for many years as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, where we knew him as a dedicated and experienced career civil servant, a consummate professional, and an extremely capable attorney. Press reports indicate that he was pushed out of his position at the FBI following pressure from the highest levels of the Trump Justice Department, as retribution for his role in the investigation of the president’s former national security adviser. If this is accurate, Mr. Boente appears to be one more victim of the Attorney General’s disturbing crusade to turn the Department of Justice into another arm of the president’s political campaign.”

From 2013 to 2015, Dana Boente served as acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. In 2015, following arecommendation from Sens. Warner and Kaine, Boente was nominated and confirmed to serve as U.S. Attorney.

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) applauded $720,441 in federal funding through the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to assist Loudoun County, the City of Manassas, and the City of Norfolk in responding to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. The federal funding was made possible through the FY2020 Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding (CESF) program, which was authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act supported by Sens. Warner and Kaine.

“Right now, we need to make sure that our local governments can continue to count on the resources they need to keep combating this crisis,” said the Senators. “That’s why we’re glad to know that this federal funding will be used to support additional supplies in Loudoun, Manassas and Norfolk.”

The funding will be distributed as follows:

  • $114,472 for Loudoun County
  • $41,306 for the City of Manassas
  • $564,663 for the City of Norfolk

CESF funding may be used to help purchase equipment – including law enforcement and medical personal protective equipment – or supplies, such as gloves, masks, and sanitizer. It can also be used to pay for overtime, hiring, training, or travel expenses – particularly those related to the distribution of resources to the most impacted areas. The funding can also be used to address the medical needs of inmates in state, local, and tribal prisons, jails, and detention centers.

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sens. Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and 13 Senate colleagues in urging the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to address the surge in discrimination and hate crimes against Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) individuals in the wake of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. In a letter to Assistant Attorney General Eric S. Dreiband, the Senators requested that the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ address this spike in discrimination by taking a concrete steps similar to those DOJ has taken in the past to address jumps in discrimination and hate crimes against a particular community. 

“We write to express our deep concern about the surge in discrimination and hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the currently inadequate federal response to address these racist and xenophobic attacks, a sharp break from the efforts of past administrations, Republican and Democratic alike,” the Senators wrote.

“There are more than 20 million Americans of Asian descent, and 2 million AAPI individuals are working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, as health care workers, law enforcement agents, first responders, and other essential service providers,” they continued. “It is critical that the Civil Rights Division ensure that the civil and constitutional rights of all Americans are protected during this pandemic.”

In the last month alone, Asian American organizations received nearly 1,500 incidents of anti-Asian harassment and discrimination against AAPI individuals across the country. This comes after the FBI assessed in March that hate crime incidents against Asian Americans were likely to surge across the country, endangering AAPI communities.

In their letter, the Senators expressed disappointment at the DOJ’s inadequate response to this threat, and called for the DOJ Civil Rights Division to release a plan to address COVID-19-related hate crimes and discrimination, designate an official to coordinate an interagency response and a review of these incidents, and provide monthly updates to Congress. In addition, they asked the Division to conduct public outreach and engage with AAPI community leaders and distribute materials about civil rights protections in languages used by AAPI communities.

In addition to Sens. Warner, Hirono and Booker, the letter was also signed by Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jack Reed (D-RI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Dick Durbin (D-IL).

Sen. Warner has been outspoken about the need to prevent discrimination and harassment towards Asian Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last month, he wrote to the President, urging him to avoid using rhetoric that fuels racism towards Asian Americans, and to prevent confusion about COVID-19 from being exploited to target communities of color. He has also previously pressed the coronavirus taskforce only to distribute accurate information about the virus and dispel misinformation or discriminatory rhetoric to help prevent suspicion, panic and race-based assaults. Additionally, he has requested that the Vice President correct the record on mixed Trump administration messages related to COVID-19, and that the FBI conduct community outreach and engage leaders of Chinese American and Asian American organizations to increase connectivity and dialogue.

The letter is available here and below:

 

Dear Assistant Attorney General Dreiband:

We write to express our deep concern about the surge in discrimination and hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the currently inadequate federal response to address these racist and xenophobic attacks, a sharp break from the efforts of past administrations, Republican and Democratic alike. We strongly urge you to take concrete steps to address the disturbing increase in anti-Asian discrimination, as the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) has done in the past.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, researchers have reported an alarming spike in anti-Asian racism. On March 14, 2020, a man stabbed two Asian American children – a 2-year-old and a 6- year-old – and their father at a Sam’s Club in Texas because “he thought the family was Chinese, and infecting people with the coronavirus.” In the past month alone, the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council and its partners have received nearly 1,500 reports of coronavirus-related harassment and discrimination against AAPI individuals across the country.

Despite warnings that using offensive and stigmatizing language to refer to COVID-19 could stoke anti-Asian bias, President Trump and his administration’s officials have referred to the coronavirus as the “Chinese Virus,” “Wuhan Virus,” and at least one White House official even called it the “Kung Flu.” Such harmful rhetoric contradicts guidance by public health experts. The World Health Organization’s guidance in naming infectious diseases warns against using names that stigmatize certain communities, as such use has “provoke[d] a backlash” against these communities in the past and “can have serious consequences for peoples’ lives and livelihoods.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recognizes the “stigma and discrimination [that] can occur when people associate a disease, such as COVID-19, with a population or nationality.” 

In March 2020, the FBI assessed that “hate crime incidents against Asian Americans likely will surge across the United States, due to the spread of coronavirus disease … endangering Asian American communities.” Even though this warning was issued more than a month ago, the Department of Justice has taken little action. In response the Center for Public Integrity’s inquiries about DOJ’s actions to address the increase in anti-Asian discrimination and hate crimes, DOJ pointed to an op-ed you published in the Washington Examiner and a briefing call with Asian American advocacy groups. An op-ed and a briefing call are far from an adequate response from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, whose stated purpose is to “uphold the civil and constitutional rights of all Americans, particularly some of the most vulnerable members of our society.”

By contrast, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks set off a wave of hate incidents against Arab, Muslim, Sikh and South Asian Americans, the Civil Rights Division implemented a plan with three major elements. This included “(1) a clear and plain statement to the American people that Arab, Muslim, Sikh, and South Asian Americans are Americans too, and that hate crimes and discrimination against them would not be tolerated; (2) outreach to the affected communities; and (3) coordination of civil rights enforcement across agencies at all levels of government.” DOJ established a crime task force with experienced federal prosecutors from the Civil Rights Division and various U.S. Attorney’s Offices. The Civil Rights Division also created a team within its National Origin Working Group to document reports of discrimination and make appropriate referrals within the Division and to other federal agencies, and to conduct outreach to affected communities with material translated into multiple languages. In 2011, the Division further acknowledged that significant challenges remained in addressing these issues, noting the concerns affected communities raised regarding other federal programs implemented in the aftermath of 9/11.

There are more than 20 million Americans of Asian descent, and 2 million AAPI individuals are working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, as health care workers, law enforcement agents, first responders, and other essential service providers. It is critical that the Civil Rights Division ensure that the civil and constitutional rights of all Americans are protected during this pandemic. To address the spike in anti-Asian discrimination and hate crimes, we ask that the Civil Rights Division immediately: 

  • Develop and publicly release a plan that sets forth how the Civil Rights Division will address the increase in discrimination and hate crimes against AAPI individuals;
  • Designate a DOJ official responsible for coordinating (a) a review of discrimination and hate crimes related to COVID-19 and (b) an interagency response to this issue;
  • Provide monthly reports to Congress on the (a) number of incidents of discrimination and hate crimes related to COVID-19 received—disaggregated by race, ethnicity, and gender, and (b) status of related cases that are pending;
  • Conduct extensive outreach in partnership with community-based organizations and regularly meet with AAPI community leaders; and
  • Distribute materials explaining civil rights protections in diverse languages used by AAPI communities. 

We also request that the Civil Rights Division respond by May 15, 2020, to inform Congress what steps has the Division has taken in response to the jump in anti-Asian discrimination and hate crimes since the COVID-19 outbreak began. Please identify the actions each of the sections in the Civil Rights Division have taken to address specific types of discrimination, such as workplace discrimination and harassment in the education context.

Thank you in advance for your prompt attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) applauded $10,832,775 in federal funding through the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to assist the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services in preventing, preparing for and responding to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. The federal funding was made possible through the FY2020 Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding (CESF) program, which provides $850 million to assist states, local units of government and tribes during this outbreak. The CESF funding was authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act supported by Sens. Warner and Kaine.

“Every day, our law enforcement professionals put their lives on the line to keep our communities safe,” said the Senators. “In the face of this dangerous outbreak, it’s more important than ever that these officials have the supplies they need to do their jobs as safely as possible. That’s why we’re glad to know that these federal dollars will help the Commonwealth pay for the resources it needs as we fight this outbreak.”

Earlier this week, the DOJ also awarded $259,453 in CESF funding to three localities in the Commonwealth as follows: 

  • $112,531 for the City of Lynchburg
  • $98,689 for the City of Petersburg
  • $48,233 for Henry County

CESF funding may be used to help purchase equipment – including law enforcement and medical personal protective equipment – or supplies, such as gloves, masks, and sanitizer. It can also be used to pay for overtime, hiring, training, or travel expenses – particularly those related to the distribution of resources to the most impacted areas. The funding can also be used to address the medical needs of inmates in state, local, and tribal prisons, jails, and detention centers.

###

WASHINGTON, D.C.  – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine sent a letter to the White House recommending U.S. Magistrate Judge Roderick C. Young and U.S. Magistrate Judge Douglas E. Miller for the vacancy in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Norfolk Division. 
 
“We are pleased to recommend U.S. Magistrate Judge Roderick C. Young and U.S. Magistrate Judge Douglas E. Miller for the vacancy in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Norfolk Division, following the decision by Judge Rebecca Beach Smith to take senior status effective August 1, 2019. Both Judge Young and Judge Miller would serve with great distinction and have our highest recommendation,” the Senators said.
 
Warner and Kaine recommend these individuals based on the assessments of an independent panel of attorneys from across the Commonwealth as well as feedback from numerous bar associations in Virginia. The White House will now nominate one individual for the position to be considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The nomination is subject to confirmation by the full Senate.
 
Full text of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Norfolk Division letter is available here and below. 
 
 
March 19, 2020
 
The Honorable Donald J. Trump
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
 
Dear Mr. President:
 
We are pleased to recommend U.S. Magistrate Judge Roderick C. Young and U.S. Magistrate Judge Douglas E. Miller for the vacancy in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Norfolk Division, following the decision by Judge Rebecca Beach Smith to take senior status effective August 1, 2019. Both Judge Young and Judge Miller would serve with great distinction and have our highest recommendation.
 
Judge Young has served as a Magistrate Judge on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Richmond Division, since 2014. In this capacity, he has drafted over 300 Report and Recommendations and presided over close to 300 settlement conferences. From 2002 to 2014, he worked as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, serving as Deputy Criminal Supervisor from 2012 to 2014. In that position, he supervised all drug and violent crime prosecutions, reviewed all indictments, and approved all charging decisions and plea agreements, all while litigating his own cases. Recommendations from various Bar Associations and their individual members within the Commonwealth reflect that practitioners would respect his rulings and that litigants would have reassurance of receiving a fair trial.
 
Likewise, we recommend Judge Miller, who has served with distinction as U.S. Magistrate Judge in the Eastern District of Virginia since 2010. During this time, he has presided over criminal and civil matters, and has conducted numerous bench trials. Judge Miller has resolved most civil cases through dispositive motions practice and successful settlement conferences. He has written numerous reports and recommendations to the Article III judges on the Eastern District bench, and has authored over 400 opinions. Judge Miller exhibits the professionalism, integrity, and fairness sought in a sitting Article III judge, and he has been deeply devoted to his community and the Peninsula area where he resides.                    
 
Ultimately, we believe either of these individuals would win confirmation from the Senate and serve capably on the bench. We are honored to recommend them to you.
 
Sincerely,

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) pressed the Justice Department (DOJ) to provide details on specific reforms being implemented to avoid a repeat of its drawn-out and opaque investigation of U.S. Park Police’s fatal shooting of Bijan Ghaisar. Their request follows a recent briefing from DOJ on the missteps that resulted in a two-year review of the officers’ actions in which details leaked to the news media before being shared with Ghaisar’s family.

“We must work together to ensure future investigations are handled in a more transparent, expedient, and thoughtful manner, which is a critical component if we are to maintain the public’s trust in law enforcement and our institutions.  Furthermore, in order to prevent leaks to the media, the Department must carefully review and strengthen the process by which it notifies family members of declination decisions,” the senators wrote in a letter to Attorney General William Barr.

In January of 2018, Warner, along with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), pushed the FBI for an update on the status of the FBI’s investigation into the fatal 2017 shooting. In October of that year, Warner sent a letter to the head of the National Park Service (NPS) regarding the circumstances under which U.S. Park Police officers engaged with Mr. Ghaisar.

Grassley, then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, contacted the FBI about the investigation in December of 2018. The FBI responded in March of 2019 with little information, provoking a follow-up letter from Grassley.

In June of 2019, Grassley and Warner decried the opaque and drawn-out nature of the review in letters to both the FBI and NPS. The FBI provided a brief response in August, leaving many questions unanswered. In October, NPS provided a partial response, which prompted a follow-up letter from Grassley and Warner in November inquiring about policy updates and related information. To date, the NPS has yet to respond to either Senator concerning this letter. In Senate Floor remarks today, Grassley called on the Park Police to prioritize its responses to Congressional inquiries on the Ghaisar case.

Following the recent conclusion of the FBI’s investigation, the senators pledged to seek greater transparency, and requested a briefing from DOJ, which was provided on February 25, 2020. During the briefing, senior officials expressed that Barr was in the process of instituting changes to ensure future investigations are handled in a more expedient and appropriate manner.

Full text of the senators’ letter follows:

 

March 13, 2020

VIA MAIL AND ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION

The Honorable William P. Barr

Attorney General

U.S. Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20530

Dear Attorney General Barr:

We appreciate your recent attention to the concerns we have raised over the last two years around the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) and Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) handling of the Bijan Ghaisar investigation.  During a recent briefing from DOJ, senior DOJ officials made references to several changes you are implementing to ensure future investigations will be handled in a more efficient and considerate manner.  We write today to request more information on the specifics of these planned changes.

On November 17, 2017, Bijan Ghaisar was shot and killed by two U.S. Park Police officers while in his car and unarmed.  The FBI subsequently investigated the deadly shooting for close to two years, and DOJ ultimately declined to prosecute the two Park Police officers.  Throughout the entire investigation, we raised concerns over the lack of transparency, the length of the investigation, and DOJ’s overall treatment of the Ghaisar family, including how the Department communicated and shared information with the family.

We must work together to ensure future investigations are handled in a more transparent expedient, and thoughtful manner, which is a critical component if we are to maintain the public’s trust in law enforcement and our institutions.  Furthermore, in order to prevent leaks to the media, the Department must carefully review and strengthen the process by which it notifies family members of declination decisions. In Bijan’s case, his family first heard about the Department’s decision not to file charges from a reporter seeking comment.  This is completely unacceptable, and frankly embarrassing. The Department must take steps to prevent such callousness in the future.  We look forward to learning more about the planned changes at DOJ and FBI to prevent future investigations from being handled in a similar manner.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Grassley

United States Senator

Mark R. Warner

United States Senator

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the following statement today after voting against the nomination of Katharine MacGregor to be Deputy Secretary of the Interior:

“Today, I voted against Katharine MacGregor’s nomination to be Deputy Secretary of the Interior, following the Department of the Interior’s failure to respond to my many questions about the tragic shooting and killing of Virginian Bijan Ghaisar by two U.S. Park Police officers more than two years ago. In November, I wrote the Department requesting information regarding the United States Park Police’s Use of Force and Vehicle Pursuit policies and the Park Service’s response to the shooting of Bijan. While copies of the updated Use of Force and Vehicle Pursuit policies were recently provided to the Washington Post, I still have not received a substantive response to my numerous inquiries to the Department about these policies, as well as the circumstances surrounding Bijan’s death.

“If the Department continues to ignore my requests for information, I will strongly consider placing a hold on Interior nominees moving forward until I receive adequate responses to my questions surrounding the Park Service’s handling of the shooting. Today, I met with the Department of Justice to receive a briefing on their investigation into Bijan’s death. Both DOJ and the Department of the Interior still face many unanswered questions, and Bijan’s family deserves answers about what happened the night their son and brother was shot and killed. Two years is too long to wait.”

In January of 2018, Warner, along with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), pushed the FBI for an update on the status of the FBI’s investigation into the fatal 2017 shooting. In October of that year, Warner sent a letter to the head of the National Park Service (NPS) regarding the circumstances under which U.S. Park Police officers engaged with Mr. Ghaisar.

In June 2019, Sen. Warner along with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) decried the opaque and drawn-out nature of the review of the Ghaisar case in letters to both the FBI and NPS. The FBI provided a brief response in August, leaving many questions unanswered. In October, NPS provided a partial response, which prompted a follow-up letter from the Senators seeking more information.

In November, the Senators formally requested an FBI briefing on its investigation into the fatal shooting.

###

 

WASHINGTON – After repeated delays and unresponsiveness by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr urging the agency to comply with the law and fully implement the Ashanti Alert system by the March 19th deadline. This date was imposed by Sen. Warner, who successfully included language in the government funding bills directing the DOJ to take swift measures to get the critical life-saving alert system fully implemented. 

“I am profoundly disappointed that the Department has failed to implement the Ashanti Alert system in a well-organized and competent way.  I look forward to the Department’s report and expeditious implementation,” wrote Sen. Warner.

Sen. Warner is a champion of the Ashanti Alert system. On December 6, 2018, Sen. Warner secured unanimous passage of the Ashanti Alert Act through the Senate. In August 2019, he reiterated the need for the alert’s swift implementation, following a meeting with Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Sullivan. He has also previously demanded in-person meetings with the DOJ, repeatedly pressed the DOJ for implementation updates, and urged congressional appropriators to provide full funding for the timely implementation of the Ashanti Alert.

A copy of the letter can be found here and below.

 

Dear Attorney General Barr:

Over a year ago, President Trump signed the bipartisan Ashanti Alert Act (P.L.115-401) into law.  I write today to draw your attention to language I included in the FY20 Consolidated Appropriations Act directing the Department of Justice to take swift measures to fully implement the Ashanti Alert system.  

Specifically, Congress directs the Department “to provide a report to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees no later than 30 days after enactment” of the FY20 Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 116 –93) detailing progress on the implementation of the Ashanti Alert Act. Further, the language directs the report to set out a final deadline for implementation no later than 90 days after enactment.  As the FY20 Consolidated Appropriations Act was enacted on December 20, 2019, I will look for the Department’s initial report next week, which should include a plan for full implementation of the Ashanti Alert Act by March 19, 2020.

As I have noted in three previous letters, the Ashanti Alert system will save lives by closing the existing gap in our nation’s missing person alert systems.  This crucial public safety system is named in honor of Ashanti Billie, a 19-year-old who was abducted in Norfolk, Virginia on September 18, 2017.  Ashanti was found murdered – 11 days after she was initially reported missing.  Because of Ashanti’s age, she did not qualify for AMBER or Silver Alerts and thus critical resources were not used to locate her whereabouts.

I am profoundly disappointed that the Department has failed to implement the Ashanti Alert system in a well-organized and competent way.  I look forward to the Department’s report and expeditious implementation.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined 35 members of the U.S. Senate and 161 members of the U.S. House of Representatives fin filing an amicus brief in the case of June Medical Services LLC v. Gee, which is currently pending before the Supreme Court of the United States and represents a direct challenge to the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Roe v. Wade. 

June Medical Services LLC v. Gee addresses the impact of Louisiana’s Act 620, an extreme anti-abortion law that forces abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic. The law provides no medical benefit and would harm patients by stifling access to abortion care. If the law goes into effect, only one clinic and one abortion provider would remain in Louisiana – a state with over 360,000 women of reproductive age.

“Act 620, disguised as an effort to promote women’s health, provides no medical benefit and instead will only create significant obstacles for women seeking abortions,” the lawmakers wrote in the brief. 

Lawmakers emphasized in the brief that, just three years ago in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the Court struck down a materially identical Texas law because it imposed significant burdens on abortion access without providing health or safety benefits. Since then, the facts, the law and the Constitution have remained the same. Lawmakers urged the court to uphold its precedent in Roe, Planned Parenthood v. Casey and Whole Woman’s Health and strike down Act 620.

“There is no compelling reason here to upend this settled precedent, and no change of circumstances between Whole Woman’s Health and this action that justifies a different outcome … Laws like Act 620, enacted in defiance of this Court’s constitutional pronouncements, undermine our nation’s confidence in the legislative process and the rule of law,” wrote the lawmakers in the brief.

Read the amicus brief here.  

 

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WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) today formally requested an FBI briefing on its investigation into the fatal shooting of Bijan Ghaisar by U.S. Park Police in 2017. The FBI announced the conclusion to its lengthy investigation last week, but did not fully explain its findings, including why the two officers opened fire on Ghaisar.

The senators have long sought transparency into the circumstances surrounding the deadly use of force and the FBI’s review of the case, but the FBI largely declined to provide details at the time, citing an ongoing investigation. Now that the investigation has concluded, the senators are demanding greater clarity to provide needed transparency and preserve the public trust.

“Despite nearly two years of investigating this incident in which considerable FBI resources were used, the Ghaisar family, Congress, and the general public still do not have all the answers.  The FBI needs to provide a full and thorough account of the events that led to Mr. Ghaisar’s untimely death,” the Senators wrote.

In January of 2018, Warner, along with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), pushed the FBI for an update on the status of the FBI’s investigation into the fatal 2017 shooting. In October of that year, Warner sent a letter to the head of the National Park Service (NPS) regarding the circumstances under which U.S. Park Police officers engaged with Mr. Ghaisar.

Grassley, then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, contacted the FBI about the investigation in December of 2018. The FBI responded in March with little information, provoking a follow-up letter from Grassley.

In June, Grassley and Warner decried the opaque and drawn-out nature of the review in letters to both the FBI and NPS. The FBI provided a brief response in August, leaving many questions unanswered. In October, NPS provided a partial response, which prompted a follow-up letter from the Senators seeking more information.

Following the recent conclusion of the FBI’s investigation, the senators pledged to seek greater transparency. Full text of the senators’ official request for a briefing follows. A copy of the letter is available here.

 

November 20, 2019

The Honorable Christopher Wray

Director

Federal Bureau of Investigations

Washington, D.C. 20535

Dear Director Wray:

We write today to request a briefing and a response to Senator Warner’s letter from January 30, 2018, Senator Grassley’s letters from December 17, 2018, and March 22, 2019, and the Senators’ joint letter from June 18, 2019, on the shooting of Bijan Ghaisar.  While the FBI has announced it has concluded its investigation into the shooting of Mr. Ghaisar, the FBI has continuously refused to answer several questions that were raised in the aforementioned letters because the investigation had yet to conclude.  Now that the investigation has concluded, we expect to receive answers to these questions and a briefing on the FBI’s investigative process and findings. 

Investigations into the use of deadly force must be handled in a way that reinforces public confidence in law enforcement.  Following completion of these types of investigations, it is necessary for investigators to be fully transparent to ensure that the public understands the circumstances of each incident.  This creates transparency and builds public trust in law enforcement.  Despite nearly two years of investigating this incident in which considerable FBI resources were used, the Ghaisar family, Congress, and the general public still do not have all the answers.  The FBI needs to provide a full and thorough account of the events that led to Mr. Ghaisar’s untimely death.

In order to shed light on this delicate situation, we ask that you respond to Senator Grassley’s and Warner’s letters and provide us with a briefing summarizing the findings of this investigation by no later than December 15, 2019.   Additionally, we ask that you please arrange a time to provide our staffs with a briefing no later than December 6, 2019.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Grassley

United States Senator

Mark Warner

United States Senator

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